General Non-Fiction posted January 16, 2018


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A weekend that changed my life

Consequences of Being a Butterfly

by johnwilson


“Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world's more full
of weeping
than you can understand.”

 -W.B. Yeats (The Stolen Child)

On an otherwise customary weekend in early fall of 1963, I was already branded as a paradigm of the baby boomer generation, because everything I thought to be true was altered. During the last two weeks, I had anticipated, imagined and puzzled over a slumber party for two, consisting of me and my newest best friend. You see, I was thirteen; time wasn't usually a commodity I seized, unless it was used to affect something I wanted more-than-life-itself. Being an extremely happy optomistic girl, I felt lucky to be me--intelligent, energetic, consumed with passion. Since I started my menstrual cycle a few months earlier, I had been changing my mind about every other minute. So, how could I keep track of something so insignificant as time? Yet time, in its ubiquitous manner, changed me that weekend, and would stretch its arms to encompass the consequences for much of my life.

In my Los Angeles neighborhood, it was still warm enough to swim in our pool, and explore the wilderness within the backyard garden. The huge lawn was a shimmering green, a swing beckoned, and everywhere there sat over ripened languid flowers above all the creatures they attracted. I was fortunate to live on a street where the trees commingled to form a magical canopy right down the middle during Summer, and rain was an exciting excuse to sit by the fire in Winter--daydreaming-- sort of melting into the crackle-and-spits of the wood. My parents were the protectors of my universe, solved all my problems, and up until then, I had never doubted their integrity.

I attended a private school of mostly snobby girls yet, for some amazing reason, I remained free of their silly conformable characteristics; I would later realize that girls who acted on the whims of others usually grew up to be up-tight shrews. But, during the start of that school term, walking down the avenue of my first year of junior high, I had made a new girlfriend, Annie. She had a boisterous belly- laugh that knocked-my-socks-off; she could climb trees, and spot anything interesting to watch a mile off; she'd create lots of weird games on the fly, challenged me to beat her at one of my favorite ones--ping-pong, and squirted me with a hose last weekend, when I lost, until we were both soaked and laughing.

I had already spent the last two weekends at her house; unfortunately, I had kept a flagrant secret from my parents which would change the entire dynamics of our parent/child relationship. She was black, and I knew my parents thought those people were different from us; they didn't belong in our class. They never used the word inferior, but somewhere in the unidentifiable cauldrons fueling my inexperienced mind, I knew this difference certainly wasn't a compliment to their race. But, I loved my parents, and for me, respect and trust followed suit. So, I simply filed it into a corner of the many misunderstood facets of being less than an adult.

Annie was to arrive at 12:00 noon on Saturday, after lunch, and stay until Sunday afternoon. Since I had been to her house, I was excited to show her mine. I had planned so many games and surprises for her, including a few little toys I had wrapped to give her when she won at ping pong, or made the best raft out of leaves and twigs to float in the pond, filled with Koi, nestled inside our property. I was impatient, and more than a little nervous, as I waited for her in the driveway. Finally, the car pulled pulled in; I ran for it, as if it could fly, or otherwise disappear.

"Hey, Butterfly," she called out before jumping out of the car. That was her nickname for me.
"Come on Annie, let's go swimming," I shouted, even though she was standing next to me.

We skedaddled to the pool. Even then, I knew I wanted to prolong introducing her to my parents; since I hadn't learned to fear the pied piper's aftermath, I was still able to scrub away ugly what-ifs, so as to enjoy the happiness of now.

And what a time it turned out to be! We splashed and dove in the pool, played volleyball in the back garden, talked about boys and her wanting to be a singer, my wanting to take care of animals. We laughed about nothing, while we pointed out distinct cloud shapes. even as they melded too quickly before our eyes.


It was after 2:00PM when my mother arrived on the scene to offer snacks. I introduced Annie to her in a proud yet strained voice. She smiled and shook my friend's hand, as I gave an inward sigh of relief. I already knew I would be in trouble later; I would gladly pay any price for inviting my friend to share my home. My mother asked us to come inside for some milk and cookies.

She escorted both of us to the library, which I knew was off limits for food. She asked me to excuse myself from my friend for a moment. I followed my mother into the living room, which was separated from the library by a floor to ceiling room divider. As she turned to face me, I felt the anger emanating from her every pore; icy words followed, flowing from her mouth with the wicked force of her convictions.

"You were warned against inviting those people into our home, Clemie. You know they are different from us, and I will not accept your disobedience." The room was cold, and there was a rare stiffness between us. "You need to tell her to call her parents, and have them pick her up." Her face was distorted with a rage I had never witnessed. Because I had nothing left in my arsenal with which to redirect those words, I started to cry-- wracking sobs shook and covered my own anger and disappointment.

"Mom, you told me it was OK to invite her. She's here. Please, this isn't fair." I pleaded through my tears, running down my sunburned cheeds, as if a part of my heart had been drowned.

"You should have thought about that before you invited her, and purposefully deceived your father and me." She raised her eyebrows on an otherwise unmoving face, allowing no solace. "I will get your father, and we will wait in the living room until her parents arrive."

Moving in shock, I slid the divider open to see Annie look up at me with tears sliding down her own face.

I have no recollection of any words spoken, or the sparking threads of angry humiliating thoughts churning inside my stomach. All four of us waited silently in a room that felt as empty as the entire universe, and devoid of all humanity. Time, freedom, consequences for actions, hatred and lost innocence all swirled around me--those words forming an incisive meaning, a physical truth.

Finally the doorbell rang too loud. I remember Annie running to her father, his picking her up in his arms, and the door slamming behind them. It was the last time I was to set my eyes on Annie; it was the last time I believed that I could tell my best friends anything; it was decades later before I could look upon my mother with respect and love; my father, who stood reproachful, silent and stiff inside that mausoleum of a living room, became a distant figure to me until his death--a funeral I chose not to attend; it was the last time I thought people were all kind-hearted, courageous and respectful of each other's beliefs.                                                                        


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Artwork by Donny murphy at FanArtReview.com

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